North Yorkshire outdoor education centres' future confirmed in new county council plans
A council which was confronted with a wall of opposition over a proposal to mothball its much-loved outdoor education centres has signalled its determination to secure a viable commercial future for the sites.
North Yorkshire County Council has unveiled plans to introduce a trial seasonal pricing policy at its centres at East Barnby, near Whitby and Bewerley Park, Pateley Bridge as part of an in-depth review of the sites’ future.
The review could also see sweeping changes to the centres’ buildings, more investment and the sites amalgamated to make them more efficient.
Leading councillors and officers will today (July 6) consider approving the measure for the coming year, when the centres have been reopened for residential visits, to see if it stimulates extra use of the centres by schools at colder times of the year.
The move follows the authority emphasising in February that it had never proposed completely closing the centres, but was rather seeking ways to stem the £1.6m losses it had already generated due to centres’ closure through the pandemic.
The changes would see the cost of staying at the centres, which have been visited by generations of children from North Yorkshire and nearby areas for several decades, rising slighty at high season and falling at low season. The proposal follow the cost of a four-night stay rising by 33 per cent since 2015 to £358.
Since launching a review of the sites earlier this year the authority has been gathering information about how it can best develop the sites, which have been described as the “jewel in the crown of the North Yorkshire education service”.
Amanda Newbold, the council’s assistant director of education and skills, said an outline business case was being prepared which would be considered by the authority’s executive in September.
She said it had been discovered prefabricated buildings at East Barnby, the site of RAF Goldsborough’s accommodation and base to 5131 Bomb Disposal Squadron RAF, had “a bit of an issue with abestos”.
Speaking ahead of today’s meeting, Councillor Patrick Mulligan, the authority’s executive member for education, said the large volume of schools responding to a consultation over the centres had underlined the “huge amount of support” the sites had.
He said there was a strong political will to ensure children could benefit from the experiencing visits to the centres for many years to come.
Councillor Mulligan said the proposed fees and charges structure would provide a basis for the service to cover its costs, as had been the case in previous years.
He said: “We are doing everything we can to make sure it is a viable service. We are not ruling out any options.”
Councillor Mulligan said the biggest challenge facing the council was over the age of the buildings, particularly with ones at the Nidderdale centre that were designed to be temporary when they were built 80 years ago ahead of housing hundreds of evacuees from Leeds.